Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The "Original" 1959 Heritage Set

More than a decade before Topps realized there was gold in reviving classic card designs from its earlier years, Baseball Cards magazine recognized that collectors love seeing current players on vintage card designs.

During the mid '80s until the early '90s Baseball Cards magazine included card inserts (sometimes referred to as "repli-cards" as a play on the word replica) in their magazine, often depicting current (and sometimes retired) players on classic card designs, such as these 1969 designed cards:

After using various designs each month over the course of a few years, in 1989 BBC inserted a set of 72 cards spread over all 12 issues for the year starting in January with panels of 6 cards per month.The cards were organized by position, so for example the 1st 6 cards in the set were first basemen, followed by 6 second basemen the next month, and so on.

Here is the entire set, which has been cut from the panels:

The backs were not as faithful of a reproduction as the fronts, but they did at least contain a cartoon

Baseball Cards Magazine followed up the 1959 repli-cards in 1989 with a 1969 design in 1990, a 1966 design in 1991, a 1970 design in 1992, and finally a 1968 design in 1993.

While this little insert set certainly is not as impressive as this latest Heritage release appears to be, its still good to take a look back and remember that there was a way for those of us who were collecting back in the late '80s & early '90s to enjoy seeing current players of the day on vintage card designs as well.

We had our own version of "Heritage" to collect years before Topps ever came up with the idea!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

1970 & 1971 Fleer World Series Cards

Today we cover yet another release from Fleer during their very productive period during the early 1970's.

In 1970, and again in 1971 Fleer released a set of cards depicting each year's World Series matchup. The artwork for the 1970 set (at least some of it) can be traced back to a set that was originally released as a privately marketed set by artist Robert G. Laughlin a few years earlier.

Using the 1966 World Series card as an example, lets take a look at the various cards.

In 1967, the Laughlin set was produced in B&W, and featured a cartoon highlighting each World Series:

Then in 1970, Fleer worked with R. G. Laughlin to produce a color version of the set. Many cards retained much of the artwork from the earlier set like the 1966 card (although there are some minor changes):

Some designs however were completely changed, such as the 1943 World Series card:

In 1971, Fleer issued a new series of World Series cards, with completely new artwork and added the MLB logo:

The backs also changed significantly. The card on the top is the 1970 card, which has blue writing on the back. The 1971 card is pictured on the bottom, and has black writing. The text is completely different, and the 1971 card also summarizes the scores from each game:

You may notice on the back of the 2 cards that the 1966 card is #63 in the 1970 set, but #64 in the 1971 set. The reason for this is that the 1970 set skipped the year 1904 since there was no World Series that year, but the 1971 set contained a 1904 card explaining why the World Series was cancelled:

The 1970 set consists of 66 cards covering 1903 through 1969 (excluding 1904) while the 1971 set increased to 68 cards to include 1904 and the 1970 Series.

The 1971 set was reissued in 1978 with 7 "update" cards covering the 1971 through 1977 World Series which were also done by Bob Laughlin:

and included the same back design and continued the numbering from the 1971 set:

Many collectors are familiar with the 1971 designs as these later appeared on the back of the 1980 Fleer Baseball Stickers (although the set only went back as far as the 1940 World Series it did add the 1971 through the 1979 Series):

The boxes are shown below, with the 1971 box shown on top (with "NEW SERIES") and the 1970 box ("Exclusive 1st Time Ever") on the bottom:

Here is the wrapper from the 1971 set:

and the 1970 wrapper:

To wrap up the review, here is a sample of some more of the 1970 cards:

And a few 1971 cards:

Updating a set like this to add the last 28 years worth of World Series matchups (has it really been than long since I was buying those 1980 Fleer Stickers with the World Series backs!) would make a great Fleer insert set for an upcoming Fleer release. They could even, dare I say it, put a logo sticker on the other side and make it one of the best retro inserts of the year!

Upper Deck - are you listening?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fleer Stadium Baseball Quiz Cards

In addition to the team logo quiz cards that Fleer produced from the late 1960's through early 1970's, they also produced quiz cards picturing a number of baseball stadiums.

I'm not sure when these were issued other than I'm assuming late '60's or early '70's and also I'm not certain if these were all from a single series, or whether perhaps they were issued in 2 or possibly even more series. I'll point out the differences below between the cards which either shows that there were a number of differences within a single set or perhaps indicates that these were issued a few different times.

The first type of card lists the name of the stadium under the picture, along with some stadium information and has a Baseball Fact or two on the bottom half of the card:

Next, we have a number of cards that have a picture of a stadium, but rather than indicating the name of the stadium, there is some MLB propaganda such as "Excitement & Color are always High at the Ball Park", "Nearly Fifty Million Paid to Watch Major League Baseball last year!" and "Baseball is Still the Number One Spectator Sport in America":

And finally, a third type (see the Yankee Stadium & Astrodome cards) which are hybrids of the first two that list the name of the Stadium, but instead of information on the dimensions and capacity include more blatant MLB self promotion: "Baseball is Preferred by More People than Football & Basketball Combined!":

Do I sense a little nervousness at MLB headquarters as they saw what was happening with the NFL during this time period as it was growing into the sports powerhouse that it is today? Our sport is the best, no really it is!

From what I've been able to gather, not all 24 stadiums are included on cards. The 12 stadiums I have been able to confirm that are included are Atlanta, Fenway, Anaheim, Comiskey, Wrigley, Cleveland Muncipal, Tiger, Astrodome, Dodger, Metropolitan, Yankee, and Washington DC (later known as RFK).

Even though there are some differences in the layout of the cards, I tend to think they were all released together based on the Baseball Facts on the cards. There is no duplication of the Baseball Facts on the different types of cards which probably would have happened if these had been released as a few different sets.

If anyone has any more information on these cards, please let me know and I'll be glad to update the information in this post.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

1972 Fleer Baseball Quiz Cards

After a 3 year run of the team logo quiz cards from 1969 - 1971, Fleer produced one more set of Quiz Cards with team logos, but this time there were multiple logos on each card.

I believe these were issued in 1972, but I'm not 100% certain. Given other Fleer releases can be dated from 1971 and 1973, 1972 seems like the most reasonable year for these cards:

Of the 3 card styles I have been able to find, the Reds cap emblem and the Cubs logo are repeated on two of the cards. In addition, the Cubs also have their cap emblem as well, appearing to be the only team represented with a cap emblem and a logo.

The teams that are not accounted for are the Braves, Angels, Brewers, Mets, Phillies, and the Senators or Rangers depending on the year these were issued. Since there are 7 logos on a card, it would seem there is one more variation with the 6 teams I've listed as well as another team that gets repeated. However, in the auctions I've seen for these cards, I've never seen a card with any of these teams. I've seen a number of auctions for the cards I've pictured above, bunt none including the missing teams. If I come across a picture of the card I'm missing, I'll update the post to show the complete set of cards.

The cards have a 1968 copyright, but that refers to the MLB copyright on the logos, not when the set was released. The questions are the same that appeared on the 1969 - 1971 cards. The number of questions varies by card, but they are all from the same set. The difference in the number of questions is more a function of how many questions they could fit on a card given the length of the question and the answer.

The cards I've pictured above appear with a number of different sets of quiz question variations. I'm not sure how many cards would comprise a full set as I have not tried to catalog the various quiz questions. I am aware of 21 different cards based on what I've seen, but there could be more.

If anyone knows about another Quiz card variation with some of the team logos I'm missing, please let me know!

UPDATE: 04/2010

Fleer Sticker Project contributor Troy has shared his extensive collection of 1972 Quiz Card variations which you can see here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Flashback to My First Love - Wacky Packages

I guess that is only fitting that someone who has a blog with Stickers in the title would fondly remember stickers as his first collecting passion. However, today I'm not going to be talking about any stickers from Fleer.

Before I ever saw my first baseball card or Fleer sticker, there was something that came before that had such a powerful grip on me as a kid that I just had to have every single one of them I could find:If you were a kid in the mid 1970's, you and your friends probably were buying Wackys. It was with Wackys that I first experienced the thrill of trying to complete a set. The feeling of completing a set is a powerful rush that I still feel today, and it all got started with Wacky Packages.

The reason this ties together so well today is 1) the theme of love on Valentine's Day (or probably more accurately obsession) and 2) the fact that a new series of classic Wacky Packages was just released this week including a new Baseball card related title.

To digress a minute, here is a brief history of Wacky Packages:

In 1967 and 1968 Topps released their first set of Wacky Packages, but instead of being stickers, they were actually die cut cards that you would punch out and lick the glue covered back to stick. Supposedly they didn't stick real well. Here is an example showing the front and the back of the cards which are referred to as Die-Cut Wackys:

In 1969 Topps tried again with a product called Wacky Ads which had an ad for the product and a punch out that could be removed and stuck:

Neither the Die Cuts nor the Wacky Ads were a big success.

However, in 1973 Topps re-released a number of the original titles from the Die Cuts as stickers instead of punch-out and lick cards, and they sold much better than expected.

The stickers were successful enough for Topps to issue a 2nd series using many of the titles from the Wacky Ads. Once Topps realized they had a hit on their hands, they commissioned new art for a 3rd series, and the craze continued to build.

I always got a kick out of the line "You'll Never Collect 'Em All". The "Hard as a Brick Bubble Gum" is actually not a joke. I think we would all agree that this was a true statement!

By October 1973 the stickers were big news:

Once the craze was in full swing, new series were released every few months. Many stores had difficultly keeping the stickers in stock as they would fly off the shelves when a new series would arrive. It was even reported at the time that Wackys were outselling Baseball cards at the height of the frenzy.
The fad continued through 1974, but like all big crazes finally started to lose steam as 1974 turned into 1975, and in the summer of '75 the 15th series was issued. It appeared the run was over as no new Wackys showed up after the 15th series, or so most everyone thought.

There was actually a 16th series which was issued in 1977 (although the sticker has a 1976 copyright), but was extremely limited in distribution and is very rare (and quite expensive) today.

Since the mid '70s Topps has occasionally produced new Wacky releases:

In 1979 - 1980 Topps produced 4 reprint series which showcased much of the original 16 series, and gave many collectors their first glimpse at the little known 16th series. Many collectors actually got started collecting Wackys through the reprints.

In 1982 Topps issued smaller sized reprints along with a sticker album, somewhat along the lines of the Baseball and Football sticker sets that were released at that time where you could stick your sticker collection in the album.

In 1985 Topps issued a completely new series of titles, but the series did not sell well enough to warrant a second new series. The Baseball Card parody was rather weak as it used the wrapper from 10 years prior, changed the date, used the newer Topps logo, and changed some text:

In 1986 Topps went back to the album stickers of reprinted titles, but never produced an album!

In 1991 Topps tried again with a new release of brand new titles, but again, the collector interest wasn't strong.
There was some artwork done for a possible 1992 release, but that release never happened.

It looked like Topps had finally given up on Wackys as the 1990's turned to the early 2000's as there were no new releases after 1991.

Finally after 13 years, Topps brought Wackys back in 2004 with a series which they marketed as "All New Series 1", bringing back the idea of a on ongoing series of releases with new titles.

With collectors rediscovering Wackys through the internet, the time was right for a new generation of Wackys. Many older collectors who had started finding vintage Wackys on ebay and reading about them on websites dedicated to Wackys were eager to get back to collecting them, and a new generation of kids was ready for the gross and absurd humor as well.

Since 2004 Topps has released 6 "All New Series" (ANS), and plans may be underway for a 7th ANS.

In the meantime, this week Topps released a "Wacky Flashback" set consisting of many vintage titles.

In additional to some old favorites, the series includes some titles that were painted but never issued, otherwise know as "Lost Wackys". One of the Lost Wackys is another Baseball Card parody which spoofs the Topps wrapper that was used throughout much of the 1980s:

This release started showing up in hobby shops this week, and should be hitting retail stores like Target and Walmart in another week or two. If you remember collecting Wackys as a kid, you might have a good time picking up a few packs to remember how funny many of these stickers were.

One last Wacky news item - a book is set to be published in May highlighting the artwork of the stickers from the first 7 series:

A great book on Wackys is The Wacky Packages Gallery which contains a ton of information on the Die Cuts, Wacky Ads, the first 16 Series, Wacky Posters, etc. I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in collecting Wackys:

And finally, if you want to know more about Wacky Packages, or want to have some fun taking a look at pictures of all the stickers, I highly recommend The Wacky Packages Website. Many of the pictures that I've posted today come from Greg's website which has a tremendous amount of information on Wackys, and is a great place to go and browse the picture galleries to remember all the great stickers some of us collected as kids, or to find collectors looking to buy or sell Wackys.

You never forget your first love, and this week Topps is giving me a chance to "flashback" to those days when I first discovered Wackys and the joy of collecting.